Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Photos by Galdones Photography
Imagine an Italian food wonderland with bread, pasta, and mozzarella made fresh daily, shelves lined with products from more than 500 various suppliers, and 100 different types of olive oils readily available for purchase. Oh, and did we mention the eight restaurants that collectively seat 650 people?
This foodie dream has become a reality at Eataly Chicago, the 17th (and most recent) installment in the high-end, global Italian food-market chain that hit the Windy City’s River North neighborhood in early December of last year.
“The concept of Eataly is very much that it’s supposed to be kind of like a little Italian town, so to that end, it’s not a food court in any way, shape, or form,” says partner and COO Alex Saper, who, along with his brother, formed a partnership with the brand in 2007 when Eataly began talks of its first American location in New York City after seeing success overseas. “It’s a place where you can buy all of your groceries, have a meal, get some gelato, and check out the butcher all in one space.”
Although each location varies in size, they are all designed to reinforce the idea that, as Saper says, “we cook what we sell and we sell what we cook.” Next to the butcher is a meat-centric restaurant, and near the fish market is the seafood eatery, so each restaurant is integrated throughout the retail instead of clustered together in one section.
Also found throughout the space: authentic Italian materials. “Most of our millwork, marble, wood pieces, bars, and counters are all made in Italy, and some of it is artisan-crafted work,” Saper says. “The authenticity adds to the modern/ traditional feel that helps Eataly feel like so much more than a boring grocery store.”
For American foodies outside of Chicago and New York, Eataly is eyeing Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Boston; Washington, DC; and San Francisco for future expansion. As the walls of Eataly read, “Life is too short to not eat well!”